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U.S. Consumers Still Prefer Physical Stores; Online Shopping Increases

Consumer online buying has increased over the years, but a recent study of “seamless buying” by consulting firm Accenture shows that more U.S. consumers are planning to buy from brick-and-mortar retail outlets this year.

Seamless buying is defined by Accenture as “The ability to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience for each customer at every touch point, any time, anywhere.”

Twenty-one percent of 750 adult consumers surveyed by Accenture said they planned to increase their in-store buying in 2014, more than double last year’s 9 percent.

Although consumers said they anticipated more in-store buys, some 40 percent, when asked what improvements retailers should make, said retailers needed to improve the shopping experience.

There was apparently less consumer displeasure with online shopping reflected in the survey. Just 16 percent said the online shopping experience needed improvement.

Commenting on the data generated in the Accenture survey, Chris Donnelly, global managing director of the firm’s retail practice, said, “The lines between the different shopping channels [physical, online, mobile] are blurring, but the good news for traditional retailers is that the store continues to play an important role.”

The survey also disclosed that 19 percent of respondents have been using click-and-collect services more in the prior year, with only 12 percent using them in the previous year.

Some 14 percent of shoppers, up from 7 percent the previous year, are buying at physical stores and having their purchases shipped to their residence.

Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said online information about product availability at brick-and-mortar stores would improve their shopping experience.  Real-time product availability information would prompt 89 percent of respondents to buy online or go to a store to buy the product.

“Webrooming,” or browsing online for products and then going to a store to buy them, was done by 78 percent of those surveyed.  Another 72 percent saw a product in a store and then went online to hunt for a cheaper price.